Teaching Artist Profile: Lesia Sochor

For many years, artist Lesia Sochor has led an egg-decorating workshop at the Farnsworth. Sochor is an artist of direct Ukrainian descent and lives in Brooks, Maine. She studied fine art at the Philadelphia College of Art, has been teaching for more than 25 years, and has exhibited extensively in the state of Maine and beyond. She learned the ancient spring tradition of pysanka from her mother and enjoys sharing this craft with others.

The Annual Ritual of Pysanka

“This spring tradition is passed down from one generation to the next, as it was for me. I learned this craft from my Ukrainian mother, and I, in turn, have taught it to my children and grandchildren. The word pysanka comes from the verb “pysati,” which means to write. So I write on my egg with a tool called a kystka. The traditional one is made from a wooden dowel with a copper funnel. It is heated in the flame of the candle, then dipped into beeswax and the designs flow from the tip onto the egg. There are many different kinds of kistkas now, including an electric one.

When the wax is removed in the final step, there are gasps of surprise and delight from all ages. The eggs can be simple to quite ornate. Students of all ages truly love this activity. They learn about this ancient ritual, and come away with a beautiful object.

I visited Ukraine in 1996 and it happened to coincide with Easter. I was astounded by the respect paid to this object. Every Mom and Pop-type store had a special place in the window with a basket filled with eggs, pussy willows, perhaps some sheaves of wheat and a beautiful embroidered cloth. Whole museums are devoted to this exquisite art form.

There is a legend about a monster chained to a cliff. As long as the populace made pysanky, the chains remained strong. If people got lazy, the chains loosened, and if people stopped making eggs altogether, the chains would break, the monster would get loose and destroy the world.

Now more than ever, we need to fill our homes with pysanky, to keep us safe and give us hope.”

Sochor’s work is currently on display at the Museum of Russian Icons in Clinton, Massachusetts. The exhibition, Pysanka: Symbol of Renewal, features her decorative eggs and her paintings. The annual ritual of pysanka making was the conduit for a decade-long exploration of paintings in the 1990s. Depicting this age-old art form, so rich in symbolism and lore, spawned a new path of expression. The traditional meanings and motifs of this sacred, talismanic object provoked new interpretations integrating ancient narratives with contemporary content and imagery, using both oils and watercolors. To learn more about her exhibition, visit the Museum of Russian Icons: https://www.museumofrussianicons.org/current-exhibitions/ and Sochor’s website: https://www.lesiasochor.com/

For a good tutorial on how to make your own Pysanka decorated eggs, view the video below!

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